Friday, August 27, 2010

Looky-Touchy-Feely - The Atomized Bombs of Jessica Smith [Part I]

As readers of Silliman's Blog know, he shut down his Comment Stream on July 31st, 2010, citing the harm this venue allegedly had caused to certain named subjects of reviews he had written over the preceding 3 years. He mentioned the reviews of books by Joseph Massey, Jessica Smith, and Barbara Jane Reyes. He specifically mentioned comments he had previously made on Jessica Smith's blog, "looktouchblog," and went on to say the following:

"One thing should be clear: many of the new entrants to the scene have no interest in old conflicts or in the idea of conflict in poetry under any terms. One might see this as an ordinary enough result of the gender rebalancing of the scene over the past five decades. But it’s also part of a deeper critique of society that no longer valorizes the self-destructive credo of the poet-as-addict. Or envisions the poet as warrior in a world in which real warriors leave so much devastation in their wake. It’s a different world. Dysfunctional male behavior is not glorious. It is in fact pathetic."
I really enjoy that "rebalancing" remark. It's sort of like the Thurber cartoon about the war between the sexes. I'm thinking of a huge plain peopled by men and women, strays running back and forth between competing groups in order to keep the plain from tipping too far in one direction or the other--"Come back here, Jessica! You're upsetting the balance! Hurry, or we'll all fall off the edge!" Seriously (well, maybe not completely seriously), attempting to characterize all differences of opinion, or perhaps the entire history of literary criticism as a form of "dysfunctional male behavior" is just the sort of tripe you'd expect of a fuddle-headed French culture critic suffering from cabin- (or condominium-) fever between academic appointments. On a completely straight level, I'd be inclined to characterize Silliman himself as a true poet-addict, or poetry-addict, even when, or if, his maleness is factored into the equation. My personal opinion would be that poets--especially those who broadcast their opinions and agendas as vociferously as Silliman does--who attempt to appear to be immune from the partisanship of taste are themselves, in fact, entirely pathetic and disingenuous.       
"I don’t mind debate, even vigorous debate, over fundamental issues. But it does seem clear to me that some people make a point of verbally attacking writers I praise on this blog simply because I’ve praised them. Reading that responses to a positive review on my blog seriously discouraged Jessica Smith about poetry & writing is as depressing a consequence as I can imagine. I want to apologize to her for not doing a better job policing the comments stream, and I want to apologize to Joseph Massey more recently for the same. And to Barbara Jane Reyes and any other poets who feel they may have been unfairly treated in the comments stream."  
If the sentiment expressed here is to be believed--and I for one don't believe a single word of it--Silliman thinks that people disagree with his literary views simply out of a desire to attack him. That, in effect, the books and writers he reviews are simply whipping-boys in a larger dialectic between himself and his literary opponents. This is a grand conceit of megalomaniacal proportions, which places the subjects of his reviews--their value, their meaning, their significance--in a subsidiary position, well below himself and his program. And it allows him the privilege (the audacity!) of apologizing to them for his failure to protect them from these hoards of crass, pathetic, vile, male commentators. And, finally, he mourns the damage, the discouragement, which such streams of vinegar and vituperation have already inflicted upon the sensibilities and careers of several young poets! Goodness!
Well, intrigued by all this stuff and circumstance over the comment box, I went over and visited Jessica Smith's looktouchblog, to see what all the fuss was about. On July 28, 2010, Ms. Smith posted an extended ("I want to comment briefly"--but not too briefly, I note) entry, "The Silenced Generation" about "a special phenomenon [she's] seen and experienced with regard to Ron Silliman‘s blog. It seems that to some degree, poetry’s youth is being trampled, discouraged and undermined with a potential long-term detrimental effect on Poetry."
There is really something quite touching about the vision of America's youthful poets being "trampled, discouraged and undermined," but we know the situation is really big news when it may have a "potential long-term detrimental effect on Poetry" [with a capital P!--italics mine]. This really shows that Ms. Smith is aware of much wider implications than her own reputation and feelings, and it shows a degree of responsibility and duty impressive in one so young, if, indeed, she is to be believed. 
The problem, as Ms. Smith states, is not with Silliman himself, whose "blog is undeniably a major and constant source of information about experimental poetry," but "with Silliman’s...comment boxes. Now, as we all know, comment boxes are notorious for being a place where a few self-appointed 'experts' on any subject can whack off listening to their own voices. Comment boxes are more often frequented by men, and they’re usually angry, aggressive men looking for an argument. This is true everywhere on the internet, not just on poetry blogs. A few years ago, Silliman’s comment boxes were especially poisonous; I’m not entirely sure what changed, but they seem to be less active now. However, when active, they are still poisonous." 
Just as an aside here, I might observe that sexist remarks about the masturbatory habits of male commentators constitute a repugnant sexist swipe. Are women to be denied the same right and privacy of self-abuse as men? Sexism! Are women who comment in comment-boxes not also potentially "angry, aggressive, looking for an argument"? Is literary commentary a form of male masturbation? Is literary discussion, commentary and critical regard a function of purely male aggression? These wild notions disturb my equanimity, and send me quickly back to Ms. Smith's essay for clarification(s)!
"I experienced this when Silliman reviewed Organic Furniture Cellar [her self-published first collection of poems]. On the one hand, Silliman was probably single-handedly responsible for selling about 200 copies of the book in a short period after the review came out. On the other hand, in both his comment stream and in other reviews, people seemed irrationally angry about Silliman’s review and turned their fury on me instead of on the book.  I know it sounds wimpy and whiny to say this [yes, it does], but the experience has made me disengage with the poetry community (not write, not publish, not participate actively in a wider conversation)."
Ms. Smith believes that in publishing a book of her own poetry, she has "unwittingly set [her]self up as an object of cruelty." Between attempts to stifle guffaws, and a seizure of sad condescension, for so much pathetic self-pity and special pleading, it occurred to me that all Ms. Smith really wanted was to be loved, for the tender, sensitive soul she is, and not the snotty, conceited little twit she sounds like. "It’s like the cyber-bullying...but in the case of poetry and Silliman’s blog specifically, the bullies are grown people who, through some lack of ability to empathize will lash out at anyone." 
It's true, Jessica, the bullies are "grown people," and, as you will find as you traverse the long road towards literary fame and fortune, they may indeed fail to empathize with you and your work. Whether you continue to believe, over time, that anyone who rejects you or your work--as being anything less than the evidence of the abiding native genius of which you now believe yourself to be possessed--is a de-facto "socio-path," will largely depend on the degree to which you mature, both as a person and as a writer. 
Ms. Smith goes on in an attempt to defend a publisher, and another poet (Joseph Massey), whom she feels have been unfairly (mortally!) damaged by harsh critical remarks in Silliman's Blog Comment Box. "Let's keep in mind," she goes on to say, "that most of Silliman's usual suspects are simply (and possibly clinically) narcissistic sociopaths and that there's no real point in engaging with them or acknowledging their (usually insipid and underinformed) claims." 
These are harsh words, harsher, I'd wager, than 97% of all the commentary that ever appeared in Silliman's Comment Box. On a scale of intensity, I'd rate them just about at the top of the bitchy-meter. Lumping people together this way--let's estimate how many different people have commented on Silliman's Blog over the last five years--there're certainly hundreds--is an impulsive and ill-considered smear. Ms. Smith is really out of control, here, and probably is doing real harm to the feelings and reputations of those people who made serious, friendly, or helpful comments over the years. But they're not like Ms. Smith, not like the good young poet she believes herself to be: "Good poets are a sensitive, melancholic people– not to reinforce a stereotype, but we have to be sensitive in order to be observant in new, interesting ways [italics mine]. To be the object of unmerited scorn and immature but hurtful comments (that are evidently made by those with little experience with the work itself) is psychologically detrimental to a poet, as it would be to anyone with a modicum of respect for other human beings." 
Here I think I have a clear disagreement with Ms. Smith about the function of criticism, but I'll throw her a bone, first. It is true that many of those who comment on the internet are incompletely "informed" about the subjects they discuss. And you could even go so far as to assert that many of those who post blog essays are inadequately "informed" about the subjects they discuss. Is it adequate simply to praise someone, or something? My guess is that Ms. Smith believes that anyone who doesn't praise her work is "uninformed" and "disrespectful" and anyone who does is by definition mature, respectful and correct. The tendency to demonize your opponents by accusing them of being rude, inhumane and uninformed is as desperately naive and juvenile, as it is futile. 
Trying to "defend" your work against criticism is probably the biggest waste of time any writer can engage in. Unless you try to claim immunity because you're too sensitive and vulnerable to endure it, which is incredibly egotistical and silly. Attempting to characterize hundreds of commentators on the internet as "robotic-hearted cyberbullies" is a pathetic generality that carries no sting, because it's a misapprehension of what it means to participate in the public sphere of debate and discussion. Writing isn't a sort of organic secretion which must be stored in a test-tube and kept away from the light and air and infection. Once you publish a poem, that poem goes naked into the world, and must suffer all the slings and arrows the world can throw at it. All the self-pity and half-baked indignation doesn't change that.  
"Something that Massey, Cannibal* and I have in common is that we are all fairly young, relatively unknown operatives in the poetry world. Like all young poets, we need and deserve the occasional positive or constructive feedback, and we are discouraged from doing our work by such floods of negative feedback. Although an apocalyptic statement such as 'Silliman’s comment boxes may silence an otherwise important group of upcoming young poets' may seem hyperbolic, I worry that it isn’t."
Ah, Ms. Smith, time flies. Soon you will no longer be young, but the same fears and misgivings you have about being criticized and under-appreciated will trouble you then as they do now. The very best "occasional positive or constructive feedback" you'll get will be the negative criticism you receive. The more august and authoritative the source, the more uncomfortable it will make you feel. Out of that embarrassment and frustration, you will grow and learn. Unless you simply ignore what people say about your work. Relying on what people say they think and feel about your work carries risks. If you make the critical reception a basis for your personal sense of satisfaction, or the value you yourself place on it, you'll almost certainly end up being injured. 
But, as I note above, a fairer estimation is better than a quick look, so I'm going to read your work, and consider whether it merits the kind of praise you believe it's due. That'll be Part II of this discussion.                                                 


* Cannibal Books, a publisher. It should be noted that the plight of Cannibal Books was not directly tied in any way to criticisms appearing in Silliman's Blog. As Ms. Smith herself admits, the financial problems associated with running a small press, rather than any over-whelming negative critical avalanche, was the cause of its demise. Still, the "whiny self-indulgent bullshit" to which Ms. Smith refers, almost certainly would stand, perhaps ironically, as a description of what she herself has engaged in with her July 28th blog.   


Anonymous said...

you should have seen her blog before she took it private..

for "invited guests only"

I don't think that she is so much concerned about her poems as she is in being a "Poet"

"in my craft and sullen art" she skipped the cract part and went straight to the 'artsy-phartsy' part.

reflected in her "mirror-of-life" she sees Sylvia Plath ... but without the writing/living skills...

Curtis Faville said...

Bring it on, baby!

I think she went straight for career track. Good for her. Soon she'll be just like Jorie Graham and Anne Carson. Excellent company.

Ian Keenan said...

Curtis, um, since I'm here for the beer discussion and your valuable histories of American poetry, you may be interested to know that recent mother J.S. is studying library science after leaving the world of poetry grad school at UVa rather disillusioned after taking to Langpo at Buffalo, which may rule out Jorie Grahamdom and global domination. I do agree with your arguments against her on this topic but she and you are each of a contradictory nature, as she is no doubt prone to and drawn to bullying. & I agree she shouldn't have deleted your posts, even if she did so right before going into labor.

It should be noted, though, that comments fields as well as anything else in this racket will be subject to people focusing strategically on the bad, and racist, sexist (though I'm not calling this post sexist, haven't really considered that question), and mean-spirited banter is only helpful to those that Silliman with his own degree of precision identifies as a school.

I'm glad you are going to review her book as it merits ongoing assessments of its relevance. It was mostly written when she was studying at Buffalo and immersing herself in the ideas of its faculty.

J said...

she seems like a poseur, and her comments tended to be naive and snitchlike---yet her own writing isn't horrible... some of us wd prefer to read bad Plath over say Ed Baker's bogus buddhist and conservative soft porno, or Silliman's psuedo intellectual BS (see his latest attempt at cinematic hipness), or Kirby O's...quatsch

Annandale Dream Gazette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annandale Dream Gazette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curtis Faville said...


I agree there's a fair amount of sarcasm in the post, but look at her words. She broadsided all the comment-makers on Silliman's Blog over the last 5+ years, and demands to be cut slack.

I'm sorry, she gets no slack from me, baby or no baby.

I'm surprised at you too. Do you think criticism is about being "nice" and intelligent and "creative"? It never was and it never will be. She insults people, and and her writing is...well, we'll discuss that in the next post.

Playing the sexist card is so entirely boring. I consider Massey on the same basis, and that's just fine. If Smith attacks me, or anyone else, she's just being brave and liberated and fair, but if I point out her deficiencies, I'm being prejudiced and macho and inflammatory. I'm sorry, this is just nonsense. Bottom line, I think it grossly inappropriate for any writer to bitch about bad reviews--it just isn't done. And I don't for one nano-second believe her "feelings" have been hurt; it's her ambition that's driving her.

Thanks for reading and commenting. Please keep an open mind.

Anonymous said...

Curtis, didn't you make a comment, something like (on Kirby's blog): "I know what little Jessica needs..."

You're disgusting. You're a failed poet and these attacks -- to settle a score with Silliman -- make you sound like a punk.

Well, you are a punk, flailing in the void against your irrelevance.

Annandale Dream Gazette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rod Warner said...

Not for the first time (used the gag in another comment somewhere!) I ponder on the irony of one of the Big Wheels of Language Poetry being scared of - language... But shouldn't mock, should we?
Would write more in appreciative response to your post - but feeling too 'sensitive and melancholic' - o, cruel world, so must go and dash off some poetry... in new, interesting ways, of course

Anonymous said...

This and your attack on Massey really distress and depress me. (At least your Massey piece quoted his work at length so that we can judge for ourselves.) It all smacks of a "pathetic and disingenuous" sideswipe at RS - shrill and spiteful - handbags at 10 paces. If the worst form of laziness is to work very hard at the wrong thing then I suggest you are very lazy and I suspect your anger stems from this - your vital energies are misdirected.


Curtis Faville said...


I'm perfectly happy to entertain all comers, but why hide behind Anon? You want to say unpleasant things, but you will only do it anonymously. If your remarks are worth making, aren't they worth saying openly?

Let's be as clear as possible about this. Silliman runs a blog, he has an agenda. People argue with him. I probably made five or six hundred carefully considered comments--many of them extended pieces--there. So did a lot of other people. Sensitive, caring, interested, helpful, intelligent people. In the usual mix, comes the usual dose of spam and slurry. Then along comes Jessica Smith and cries foul because someone didn't like her little poems. Oh, my. So Silliman closes down his comment stream, to please a handful of petulant, selfish, clawing wannabes. No apologies to all these people, no respect for their opinions, just "poof, baby, you're hangers-on and yahoos. Get lost!"

It's anyone's right to say pretty much what they want on individual blogs. Silliman threw down the gauntlet when he shut his box. It's my perfect right--just as it is yours--to criticize anything someone says in another blog. That applies to everyone.

Negative reviews, reviews which aren't slavishly obsequious, happy-talk aren't allowed? I don't think so. A lot of people said Silliman could do whatever he wanted with his site, it was purely proprietary. Bravo!

I agree with Ron most of the time. The rest of the time, I'm perfectly within my rights to take a different position. If nobody reads it, terrific. At least it gets said, and not "moderated." You want to comment, fine. But let's not talk about anyone's right to criticize. Jessica Smith can prevail upon Ron to efface criticism from his site, but neither he nor she can do so here. Quack, quack.

There are usually at least two sides to any issue. Shut off one side of any debate and you've got--de facto censorship. When Jessica Smith smeared all of Silliman's contributors, she forfeited the right to be handled with kid gloves. Smith dissed everyone. If she can do that, she can take a little feedback.

Conrad DiDiodato said...


I admire your tenacity: free speech means putting forward viewpoints (that may not be to everyone's liking) & giving your opponents an opportunity to respond. All opinions are made to feel welcome here, & Curtis takes pains to address almost all of comments in some detail.

I've been a reader of "The Compass Rose" since my friend Ed Baker first introduced me to it a couple of years ago, and I'm glad he did.I don't always agree with Curtis but you will be hard pressed to find in the blogosphere a more informative, talented & qualified spokesperson for the issues he addresses here.

Bloggers must (if they're to keep their readership) write in different registers, casting their net over a wide variety of topics and viewpoints: so Curtis's Swiftian jabs are very much in keeping with that spirit of open discussion.

Of course, Curtis's critics are entitled to their opinions here on the topic of Jessica Smith, and so am I. And I've just expressed it.

Anonymous said...

I love a parade
a parade is so

don't you think


I am not the other two "anons"

J said...

I don't always agree with Curtis but you will be hard pressed to find in the blogosphere a more informative, talented & qualified spokesperson for the issues he addresses here.

I ditto that. And CF def. outwrites the Silliman-Smith sensitivity crew. Have any of these people ever read a HL Mencken or even Pound's literary epistles? Ich denke nicht.

Besides.....broken hearts are for assholes (as Zappa said)

jh said...

as our old friend kirby is wont to say

this is all almost very important

presuming to be a poet at all is a perilous choice
it would seem teachers might be obliged to state that repeatedly

it appears you
point to a form of
cultural cowardice

the foulness of our thoughts and expressions must surely be integral to our poetry

let's not make this like a jazz performance in a no-alcohol no-smoking venue

jesus was a poet
look what they did to him


my theory is
silliman is taking all the
comments and weaving them into a big new work
it's a heist of all our intellectual property

we are all refuse in a literary gutter

couldn't we all just kiss and make up

john hanson

Stephen Baraban said...


Pace "Annandale", I didn't read your original post as offensively mean-spirited, but I did think the first comment, by one more "anonymouse", WAS objectionably ad feminam [speaking of J.S. as eschewing craft and leaping to the "artsy pharty"; J.S. as surely seeing someone in the mirror who lacked Sylvia Plath's "writing/living skills"--need I elaborate how nasty the 'living' part of that is, with Plath having such problems, and eventually..., you know]--and, my god, you cheered on this person with "bring it on, baby!"

It makes my wonder if there is more nastiness in yr orginal post than I originally found in it--but I don't have unlimited time for this stuff.

But re JS let me say this: it's possilbe that J. Smith indeed is painting most Silliman commenters with a broad brush as being nasty people. She may be commenting on only a sub-segment (though she's not particularly mournful about the whole shebang being shut down because of that segment). Or she may indeed be into a wild generalization. After all, when I did comment on her blog re/ not wanting to see the vast record of Silliman's Blog comments obliterated, she replied to me that if such were my concern about blogs the answer is likely more politeness in commenting, as if she were assuming I myself must have been guilty of something.

Kirby Olson said...

It'll be interesting to see what you think of her poems.

I didn't think the Massey ones were very good.

I still think if you go to a bad restaurant and are poisoned, you should be able to say so.

If you only want good feedback, you should give your poems only to your mom.

After about first grade, in which kids should all get stars for everything they do, including getting to the bathroom without exploding, I think it's almost very important to get feedback to see how you're doing.

If you have a restaurant and you're poisoning people, there's no reason for the customers to be all nice about it. They should throw up on you, and take you to court.

If you're putting out cars that fall apart on the highway and leave their occupants bumping along at 70 mph without a chassis, it seems that someone should say something.

Poetry is just another vehicle. If it doesn't get you anywhere, if it's boring, or if it's too stupid to believe, I think the riders in the car should have the right to say something negative.

Poetry is a public vehicle.

Everything else can be criticized. Restaurants, motels, movies, novels, fashion, essays, why should poetry be exempt?

There IS going to be a certain amount of Salieri Complex in poetry criticism, in which quite good writers go after brilliant little Mozarts, and try to deck them.

But that's part of poetry! It didn't affect Mozart too terribly at least in terms of getting his work done. Salieri did apparently finish off Mozart by getting his funding cut, but that's all part of poetry too.

Poetry isn't exempt from any of the shameless human behaviors that affect every other human behavioral field. It wasn't as if Freud said, well Jung we disagree!

He tried to terminate him.

As long as this is done legally, we are within the first amendment, and so long as we are past first grade, where I really think all the mollycoddling should stop (ok, fourth grade, maybe), then I think it's ok to discuss what's happening on the page.

It's quite subjective naturally, and naturally, some people are meaner than others, esp. in poetry (I let Eigner have it!), but it's partially a response to the need to be so nice and delicate that a good body-check into the stands can be sort of groovy.

I think the remarks you quote of Smith's show that she's not above body-checking, and slamming whole crowds of people (everyone who ever commented at Ron's blague was a narcisstic sociopath! -- I thought that was only ME!).

At any rate, looking forward to the reading of Smith's pums. Heck, maybe they'll be your favorites since Rumi.

Jim Behrle said...

I just found out about this. So I guess I'll comment about it all soon at my places in the way I comment on things.

Thanks for waking my sleeping dragon.

Curtis Faville said...

Look, Ma, no hands!

Even Behrle gets to post here.

He was once parasitic blog insect #1 on Silliman's site, but he quickly lost interest in it.

Turns out Behrle's out of his depth when it comes to discussing poetry. His only legitimacy seems to have been as a cartoonist, thought lacking a subject.

He's not a dragon, but a munching virus. Once he hooks into the cell wall, he injects his trojan DNA into the nucleus. First thing you know, there are hundreds of mini-Behrles swimming in the empyrean. Insidious little bastards--but the condition soon passes as he moves on to a new host. There's no known cure, but immunity follows a low grade infection.

I see I've mixed my metaphors, here, but Jim's a resilient guy. He can tolerate a little rude handling.

Anonymous said...

"Curtis Faville, sad former-author and hapless Silliman lapdog-in-exile..."

Jim Behrle said...

Somehow I think we're both out of our depth discussing poetry. I am the maggoty infection, as you suggest. But what's your excuse? We'll explore it in depth at my infectous petri dish. The Hand of Fate is On You Now.

Curtis Faville said...


I've got a few years on you, plus advanced degrees in English and Design. You're a maverick amateur, but cheek won't take you very far. My advice--find a comfortable niche, and stop trying to jimmy the lock on the steel door to the grown-up room.

How about stationary engineer--like the character in Walker Percy's The Last Gentleman?

Or--try going back to school. It's expensive now, but it might salvage your miserable life.

Kirby Olson said...

Behrle had the fine sensitivity of a cow. It's funny that he thought we were all the same -- you, Ron, and I -- when we all felt such enormous differences between us, ourselves.

Somehow, I think the three of us will remain friendly on some basis.

Behrle. He's part of another herd altogether, or so I've heard.

But at any rate, let's see some of Jessica's pums. I hope that you like them at least as much as you like Rumi. The cover of her book has wallpaper on it for some reason.

But you never know. Can't judge a book by its cover.

Jim Behrle said...

You're not much of an example of the benefits of higher education. Or studying poetry. You seem to have no work of your own. Maybe salvage your miserable life. If the point of your existence is to take down poets Ron likes to lift yourself up, well, that just ain't no way to live.

Jessica & Curtis Episode 2 will be appearing at my website anon.

Curtis Faville said...


I think you're basically uninterested in the subject-matter. You just comment to shake things up. That's fine, if it's entertaining, but you seldom bring anything to the party. You're like a petulant baby, screaming and throwing his toys, "waaaaaaaaaaaaaa" because no one's paying any attention to him.

If every time you raise your hand and are called you just throw a shoe, the moderator won't keep calling on you. Get the picture?

Anonymous said...

The Butterfly’s Assumption Gown
In Chrysoprase Apartments hung
This afternoon put on –

How condescending to descend
And be of Buttercups the friend
In a New England Town –

by Emily Dickinson

This whole thing is like that 5 car pile up on the highway you know you shouldn't look at but just end up staring at in wonder anyway. Afterward, you get that not-so-fresh feeling.

That's when I find a gem of a Emily Dickinson poem or such to remind me why I like poetry at all in the very first place. And then I tune out all this absurdity.

I have posted this comment as advice to anyone else who accidentally got themselves sucked into this ridiculous chatter and didn't look away in time.

Remember the poems! Just read them and ignore this crap!

Jim Behrle said...

No, I don't get the picture. There really is no party here, Curtis. Unless you consider it a pity party. No one is stopping you from talking about the poetry you like here. Or the subjects you're interested in. As I think the cartoon at my blog states rather epicly, you're just proving why Jessica Smith's concerns were valid. And the ways in which the people who commented in those fields were toxic. By duplicating their worst impulses here. But that's on you. This is your space and if you're not capable of filling it with something meaningful that's ultimately your failing. I asked Ron to stop writing about me years ago so I could stop dealing with the whiners in the comment fields who were jealous of me and jealous of the attention I get. I am fully aware of the things I do and what I'm about. But from what I've seen here you almost totally lack self-awareness. And seem to ignore the concerns of others who are horrified by your work here on this matter. What will wake you up? More cartoons!

Anonymous said...

Don't you guys have anything better to do?

J said...

actually Behrlita, une pinche maricon was not entirely off base by suggesting a certain affinity between S-man and Kirby O, and even Sir Faville. Politically S-man tended to support neo-cons--he favored the war at one point. He quotes the likes of Aynnie Rand. As does Kirby O.--KO regularly features great minds such as Beck and Limbaugh on his Fundamentalist Surrealist site; he's in complete agreement with the McCain/GOP/mormon sponsored immigration shakedown in AZ. NAda mas que blanca-basura

Not sure of Sir Faville's political takes (at least Im pretty sure he objects to Foxnews), but at tiimes you must admit you tend to conservative views, CF (tho'....they seem more Menckenish, thanxfully, than mormonish or GOP-zombie sort).

Re poesy...well that shit ended like in verdun, 'cept for the virtuoso sort (say...Simic). Silliman et al are sort of just collage ahhtistes, smashing it all together to make a big pot of word-goulash ('s rendered mostly meaningless by a few dozen tight pages of Pynchon or DeLillo or PK Dick)


Curtis Faville said...

"Don't you guys have anything better to do?"

I post about subjects which interest me. They're also exercises in organizing my thoughts. If anyone else is moved to comment, they're welcome.

If you have better things to do than read people's blogs, by all means go do them.

So what's the issue?

Curtis Faville said...


I think people noticed you on Silliman's comment box because of your outrageous behavior. You came there as a gadfly. You didn't have much to say, except that you thought everyone else was being overly serious and self-centered, and that the answer to all that was for people to read your poems and look at your cartoons. But I read your poems and cartoons and I thought them pretty bland. You are like a high-school clown who secretly envied the cheerleaders their pom-poms and coveted their good legs. You wished people would find YOU attractive. Unfortunately, you weren't. And they didn't. Hence your bleak sex life. Hence your insecurity. I have a limited appetite for this stuff, so be warned. The moderator's finger is itchy.

Jim Behrle said...

I went to an all boy's high school. I never met any cheerleaders. Moderate me into oblivion if you wish. It just shows how willing you are to silence others...wait for it...the way Silliman silenced you! Wow, it's different being on that end of the blogger account, ain't it?

Curtis Faville said...


We were talking about Jessica Smith when you sauntered in. Does the subject interest you?

jh said...

finally some entertainment
finally some cockamaney vaudeville
finally no other excuse
finally some rhetorical manure spreading
finally some slapstick schlick

jim and curtis you're not fighting over jessica smith are you

no poking fingers in the eye

annandale dream gazzette will come over here and spank you

i'm delighted to read the ragtag flippancy of berhle again
for awhile it was the ONLY thing that took me back to SB

jim i'm glad you're still out there lighting bottle rockets in the auditorium

why didn't anyone come up with this

cannibal books:
eat me

comedy boyz
don't give up on comedy
the world is turning
so unfunny

they call it stormy monday
but tuesday's twice as bad


WV furpes
hairy little scabs

Anonymous said...

I just want to say I like Jim Behrle's mysterious profile pic avatary thingy. He resembles a dozen largely forgotten writers and painters of the 19th century...and a few Vorticists I think. Sexy tragic dead. Is that a Van Dyke he's grown? No, he looks more like Seurat. Even the tonality is Seurat. You attack his sex life but I think he's curiously superhot. I bet he gets laid by giddy poets all the time. Poets are known for their giddiness. And why shouldn't he make cartoons since most american poets now aspire to be cartoons. I like fat men with Cupidy lips who aren't afraid to be retarded to make a media living. I had a weird sexual Buffalo Bill fantasy about him (it was very Ed Gein I'm ashamed to say) that passed after a night. The only advice I would give Mr. Behrle is Never Never Never to show his apartment again in any photograph. Being a bachelor can have its romance. Being a bachelor without cleaning skills means you had better build a special shack to cam in. I mean even if you're a prodigy of nature under those funny little shorts. Girls ain't gonna go there when they see that floor, Jimmy. Open a window or something. Aren't there seagulls where you live? They'll eat those Cheese Jax you know? They won't think twice about marching right into that dumpster where you (no doubt beautifully) sleep. Now I want to go write a Sonnet on "Jimmy Asleep." And Jimmy Behrle invented flarf long before the careerist versions did. He was a living incarnation of flarf. And that's something. I want a t-shirt that reads "I KNOW I'M SOMETHING BECAUSE GOD DON'T MAKE NO FLARF."

J said...

Whacky zany blog-slapstick, yes to a degree Padre H-son but a disgusting creature like Blenn Geck is no laughing matter. "The personal is political"as phreaks once yawped: you bless neo-cons, mormons, Foxnews, etc (as Olson did, and Silliman as well, at least implicitly) well, like you oughta consider wearing Kevlar.

Now. Back to the topic at hand. Consider like Chas Bukowski..or, zut LF Celine reading the dainty, polite, whiny college gal-verse of Jessica Smitts & pals. Then like picture Buk. sobered up, temporarily, and buying a ticket to Buffalo or whereever with some winnings from the racetrack, flying back there to shut her the fock up, duct tape across her piehole, and give her butthole the harsh treatment it deserves.

Jim Behrle said...

I don't think the subject of Jessica Smith's poems interests you, Curtis. Since when in Silliman's comment fields were you ever told to stay On Topic? You want to burn Jessica Smith as a witch, you don't want to read her poems calmly and discuss them as art.

My own personal feelings about ORGANIC FURNITURE CELLAR are conflicted. It is a representative first book by someone taking poems seriously and trying to create something that's specifically hers. It does say "Works on Paper" on the cover, and its interesting to think of them as so. She read with Ron at a Zinc Bar reading I hosted. And she and I have some personal history. So maybe it's not appropriate for me to comment on her poetry as I may be a little biased.

But, c'mon. Be honest! You don't want to comment on her work! You want to roast her. Admit it. You'll feel better if you admit it. I mean, you can call me names and cast dispersions on my motives. But what are your motives? Ron liked Massey and Smith's poems. You don't like them. OK. Well, what DO you like?

I don't honestly know if we have seagulls where I live. We're like 300 feet from the East River.

Kirby Olson said...

I published some of Curtis' poems when I was editor of RealPoetik, and these were in turn republished on Ron Silliman's blog, here:

Curtis Faville said...


Probably should wait until I review the book, or you read it, before making judgments about her.


Curtis Faville said...


"May the bird of paradise strafe your Winnebago."
--Johnny Carson

I haven't read the Furniture book yet--it's coming in the mail, but I've read a handful of her poems posted online. I'm keeping an open mind. The first part of the review was a hit off her "attitude" (which played so great a part in Ron's decision to shut his in-box). I thought her behavior reprehensible. Someone else suggested she was going through conniptions from her bad relationship, and then the pregnancy. These aren't things, as reviewers, we can observe. The biographical fallacy again.

Thanks for the tip, though.

My real father's name is Calef. One of our ancestors, in the 17th Century, authored a pamphlet against the persecution of witches. That makes me proud. Would the pamphleteers of yesteryear be the bloggers of today?

J said...

I was about to let it go, but re-perusing some of J. Smith's snitchy remarks on the S-man comments issue felt impelled to bark.

Who really cares...but note her snide generalizations about "the usual suspects", the bums, "cyber-bullies", all a bunch of no-bodies, etc. Schoolmarmie BS, Sir Faville. I doubt she knows a real book--say Heart of Darkness --from her favorite Hallmark klassics . And...that's generally the case with the sad sacks of sh*t (m & f) who make up the poetry biz. No honor-- no nada

Curtis Faville said...

I share your respect for Conrad, but I'm not sure what it has to do with Smith.

J said...

It's a bit tangential though Conrad certainly influenced the modernists did he not? (Pound, Eliot, Joyce, etc). The Conradian sort of mind (not to say prose) has been mostly eliminated from Lit-land, whether in fiction or "poetry", and has been replaced with...Hallmarkers. That's the connection.

Kirby Olson said...

Burroughs liked Conrad.

We had to read some god-awful book of Conrad's in a class Burroughs taught at Naropa in '77. It wasn't H of D.

I pretended to read it. I see here what J. is saying. I'm surprised. I think he has a point!

But I confess: I find Conrad VERY hard to take, and Burroughs hard to take, and J hard to take.

I also find Smith hard to take, and Behrle hard to take.

Milton Berle, even, was hard to take.

Burl Ives is hard to take.

This doesn't mean they don't occasionally have their points.

J said...

Conrad has nothing to do with Burroughs, except in yr little twisted fundie mind, Kirby O. And Im pretty sure you didn't understand Heart of Darkness, or any Conrad text.

In fact Conrad was a pole, and cradle catholic, and ship captain. English was his third language. He was somewhat of a conservative as well, tho' not the idiotic yokel, Foxnews sort that you mistake for conservative.

jh said...

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Anonymous said...


Burroughs was influenced by Conrad. Just a search on Google brought up:

where Burroughs lectures on Lord Jim (among other books). Other stuff if you look around.

Do you ever check to make sure what you're writing is ACCURATE, or do you just take pleasure in "opining" (a practice you and Bill O'Reilly both love) too much to do so?

J said...

So what? Irrelevant...non sequitur in fact. as is the O'Reilly comment-- And the assertions regarding Conrad's influence on the modernists (recall Eliot, referencing Kurtz's death, for starters) were completely accurate. The point did not concern Burroughs or the usual beat clowns, until yr pal Kirby O (that's the Foxnewser, anny) included his usual sophmoric anecdote. It was about the Hallmark's club lack of awareness of authentic writers such as Conrad.

The typical association trip means little or nothing---Burroughs liked Conrad so some schmendricks consider Conrad as a type of crypto-Burroughsian underground writer. Nyet.
The same thing happened after WWII with some of the sobsister left: they noted that the nazis read and were influenced by Nietzsche, and then claimed Nietzsche's a nazi. Nyet. They purged Nietzsche's comments opposing the rabid nationalists and anti-semites, for one. One can ridicule the slave morality of the Old Testament w/o thereby approving of Himmler, etc

Curtis Faville said...


You should check Burroughs out. He's a fascinating writer, and an even more (if that's possible) interesting man in the flesh.

J said...

Speaking of....Nietzsche--that's another scribe the Hallmarkers or Kirby's malt-shoppe gang apparently never heard of. Gotterdammerung, today on Jessy Smith & friends'

Hey Archie...yr writing's chockful of ressentiment. No Reg, that's just yr petite bourgeois morality. Here comes Veronica, the stinking hegemonic imperialist

J said...

I read a bit of Burroughs--Junky-- and am familiar with the myth. I read on the Road once.

And actually ...I heard Burroughs speak in Boulderberg once, with Mailer and the usual suspects (...where I was a student at CU, and unbeknownst to me, lil Kirby was right down the lane, schwingin' with the booodhist hottub hepcats lala la la la lahhh).

Burroughs was a clever deviant, but overrated as an intellectual, IMHO (not to say a rabid misogynist). Naked lunch however influential is nearly unreadable. The pendejo had good taste at least--Lord Jim's a great tome (and actually not a bad flick, with O-toole as Jim...). As is Youth, HoD, Nostromo, N-word of the Narcissus, etc. Conrad's sort of like Melville... but heavier and I'd say ...more eloquent

Anonymous said...

Behrl IS o.k. much to my liking

check this (on his blog) out

I think that ALL OF Y'ALL agree with his take on AWP, University "creative"
programs and Seth Abramson.

Kirby Olson said...

There's lots of archived Burroughs from his Naropa Lectures in the 1970s. J is too stupid to take advantage of these, but anyone who wants to listen to them, they are worthwhile for the tiny bits of info that Burroughs had processed into a larger set of themes. He was particularly interested in how films recycled classics, and in this hour long clip has many fascinating insights into Apocalypse Now, which had just come out. The class was offered in a building near Arapahoe Blvd. in Boulder, and you can constantly hear motorcycles revving up to get up the hill. I'd forgotten that part, but it brought it back to listen to the tapes. We had John Cage and other musicians talking with us, and one of the things we often had to do is sit quietly and listen to those engines going up and down the hill as if they were music.

Ian Keenan said...

I'll take a moment to respond to “J”:

1. Nietzsche repeatedly praised the Old Testament, calling it “something of the rarest quality in the world” in Genealogy of Morals. Your attempt to degrade Nietzsche by using him to support whatever point you're trying to make while distancing yourself strategically from the discredited Himmler has, like the rest of what you write, no foundation in reality.
2. The Nietzsche revival after World War II was spawned by Foucault and Deleuze who have described their political views with specificity.

I reiterate my respects to Curtis but if you're going to threaten to use comment moderation on someone who disagrees with you, you shouldn't have printed “J's” imagery of sexual violence. Using literary criticism as a threat made in advance has predictably led to a disgusting discussion.

Curtis Faville said...


I'm unclear about your remark above regarding moderation.

Formally, my stated position is that moderation should only be considered in extreme instances--i.e., in cases involving liable, slander, actionable content, and pointless expletives and name-calling. I think I've so far blocked one comment in 19 months, and it didn't involve any political issue.

Also, what do you mean by "using literary criticism as a threat made in advance has predictably led to a disgusting discussion"? What are you referring to here. I'll gladly address your concern but I need to know what the citation is.

Some discussions may indeed turn rancid. But I'd rather that than painting a false picture by "selecting" remarks which only enhance my own agenda.

Ian Keenan said...

Curtis, As far as 'literary criticism as threat' is concerned I was referring to the last two paragraphs. It's unusual that an 'open letter' in disagreement be followed by a statement that the writer is going to review the recipient's book, after you've exercised your first amendment rights to finish your negative remarks about Joe Massey. Perhaps it is inaccurately described as a threat but the discussion provoked such a conclusion.

J said...

Touched a nerve eh, Kirby O the ex-boodhist turned mormon. You don't know fuck about Conrad, or even the "Beats" who you've tried to pander for years. Foxnews...and Wm Burroughs! Not just stupid, but psychotic (and as I said a few months back, step in a ring, beatnik boy. 200 lbs of muscle in yr little Hallmarker grill, pendejo).

Some of us like earned real degrees back in the day, with like coursework in science, math, formal logic as well as history and literature (and not of the hottub seminar type).

For that matter, Burroughs was a Spenglerian (or at least Spenglerian-lite), another thinker you don't know fock about, and indeed completely at odds at with yr cheesy sunday school sentimentality.

Stick to Hallmark, and like A Mighty fortress is yr G*d, Kirby Schmendrick

Curtis Faville said...


Nothing I thought or said in either the Massey post or the Smith post would suggest a "threat". On the contrary, I posted a warning to Massey, due to a message received on a house phone.

I began the Smith review thinking to do the review in a single entry, but then decided that it would be best to review her book in full, rather than the handful of poems I was able to find on the internet. I don't know how this constitutes a "threat" to review. It's just a review, the first installment of which addresses the cause for my curiosity about the issues surrounding Silliman's announced decision to close his comment stream in direct consequence to Smith's complaint.

I had probably commented on his review of Smith's book--though I can't reference that comment now because it's been deleted--and I probably left the impression that I had disrespected her work, though, again, I have no recollection of that either way. I think it's only fair that if Smith can accuse all Ron's commenters of being "socio-paths" who "whack off" there, I get to do a straightforward, no holds-barred review of her book. If comment box crit isn't allowed, then I'll take it here. What's so scary about that? When I made a few casual comments about Watten's Grand Piano, I got the same blast of Mississippi fart gas. I guess some subjects are just off limits.

I don't know how you can "threaten" to do a review by simply announcing that you will.

I've ordered the book off Amazon, but it's taking longer than it was supposed to to receive it. I'm trying to keep an open mind about my reaction to it, but I'll admit to being a little skeptical about the possibilities.

Massey thinks I ate him alive. I'm not nearly that carnivorous. I like my meat to be dead first.

jh said...

curtis i want to thank you for taking the schoolplayground form and incorporating it into the blogosphere

i don't recall smoking anything today but i certainly had to laugh at the rundown here
man o man
this is really something

kids runnin here and there
balls flyin through the air
laughter screaming gaeity laughter
babble some delinquents mostly my friends looking nefarious over in the corner nerds with books bratty girls jocks with animal brains
comedians school marms the whole lot

i was engaged in a grey state of ennui for awhile
but not nomore [eeerrrggch!]

the ancient voice of anon
is even well what should we say
adding a little
"je ne sai quoi"


if this comes to a line by line explication of jessica smith poems i will quit
no question about it do you hear me


peace on ya


i don't know what to say J
sometimes your playground manners are a little gruff
and i shrug my shoulders

i admire the cerebral level
on the blog
i've learned a thing or two this summer


J said...


that defines yr crony Kirby O.(who you still routinely defend, even when he's quoting Pat Robertson, or Beck, et al)

You rarely respond to specific points, jh. Note my comments. Im discussing Conrad, Nietzsche (not a PC leftist at all, and Genealogy of Morals has many ...rightist sections...perhaps not Himmler, but ...nihilist), Spengler, modernists--not a playground. Jessy Smith's the playground, or Silliman, or KKirby.

The sort of anti-intellectualism of the Jessy Smith school which seems unaware of serious writers...or philosophers for that matter should offend us. really, Id say many of the writers Faville discusses (such as Koch) also were anti-intellectual. One can understand a bit of backlash against the TS Eliot sorts---but ... the backlash went too far. The french deconstructionist types (alluded to by Keenan)..thats not necessarily the right correctio.

When people insist on dumbing down the discussion (or...PC-ing it, or ...hallmarking it, or Foxnewsing it perhaps), I tend to respond in kind, or with mockery. As in the gentlemanly offer of a duel to Olson---Marquess of Queensbury rules. Honor. No need to be hysterical. Fisticuffs, or swords, or ..pistols. So you accept, or you decline...and pay homage. Sort of poetic.

jh said...

so people decline
does that mean you win
or does it simply indicate
that the kids don't want
to play with you
the playground is getting a little toxic

as far as i can tell nobody here
or at LS or on SB is demanding an imperative way of thinking
silliman does tend to favor his rhetorical take on things as it gets expressed by his followers
but he's not beating anyone over the head with it
he's stating a case for the avante gard

nobody's staking a claim for the cultural survival of the world on any of this
post modernists can speak with medievalists

why the swords
why the guerilla manuevers
why the handgrenades

i tend to admire the playfulness of curtis and most the commentators here

there is an atmosphere of seriousness and lightness and comedy

once in awhile sombody needs to stress a point but nobody that i can tell is staking their intellectual credibility or their political preferences on any of it

maybe we're all simply learning to talk intelligently with strangers
with open minds
and some curiosity

importance falls away pretty quickly on the blogosphere
why get in a tiff
why rage like custer

we'd all do well to be a bit more
don quixote
and sancho panza
it's all pretty silly stuff

chivalry and good manners
can go a long way
even on these odd cyber currents

compliment extends the coversation better than knives do

rage against the windmills
dally in the barnyard
dulcinea is awaiting a love poem
let's be on to noble deeds


J said...

Glenn Beck supporters (such as yr crony Olson) deserve all the humiliation that can be pissed in their general direction. Some of us aren't fortunate enough to reside in some safe ,protected haven--whether rural monasteries of ivy league college towns--where we can contemplate Being and Time at our leisure, paddy JH.

I deal with mormons, evangelicals and other religious fundamentalists on a day to day basis--even fundamentalist hegemony in a sense, in the PC speak.

So, like ________ a Mormonic-zombie for Shelley's shade today

(and duels...code duello. quite traditional. J's Burr.... to KO's Hamilton)

Kirby Olson said...

I think it's good you continue to publish J. He's a good example of the jihad that the secularists have set loose, and his IQ is probably higher than that of most of his set. He's actually heard of William Burroughs, at least, even if he hasn't actually read anything by him.

J stands for Jihad. There are a million little nitwits like him in this country: each one dumber than the next.

The basis of Jihad is: Think like me, or I will silence you either with death, or with threats.

Feminist jihad is quite similar, but generally less desirous of the armed option.

What I find funny on this blog is that TOLERANCE is such an operant term for the administrator, that he will continue on with the absurd paradox of tolerating intolerance, and think of it as a virtue.

It's a very funny set of interacting symptoms.

J said...

Wrong again, Kirby the defender of Mormon theocracy (and....does that mean you accept the duel, or don't?).

That one doesn't accept the GOP or Foxnewsland doesn't imply one accepts jihad, dimwit (really...that is the type of populist right thinking you should moderate, Sir Faville). That's yr typical non-sequitur (and host of other fallacies).

I accept authentic Jeffersonian principles, for the most part. You don't...not only that, you simply don't understand the problems involved with justifying theism (not to say yr two-bit jingoism). I doubt youve even made it through the cliffsnotes to...Ivan Karamazov (ebonics Dostoyevsky, abridged)

And anyone who code shifts from like Burroughs to Foxnews, Glenn Beck, Limbaugh...shouldn't be taken seriously anyway.

Kirby Olson said...

Challenging someone to a duel is a direct threat of murder. I suggest that this remark either be edited or rescinded.

J said...

Your knowledge of the law is about as pathetic as your general. When someone challenges you to step in a ring--legally, Marquess of Queensbury as I noted-- that's not a threat. It's...a challenge, and about honor, valor, manhood: all those abstract concepts you never understood. So step in the ring, mormon punk

Besides, most states are like California – No statutory duelling prohibition – California Penal Code Sections 225 through 232 So....we choose a state where it's not prohibited.

It's a challenge, even via ..."pistols at dawn"--which was figurative, but even then not a threat, but an offer, like a deal. Who said death anyway, Kirby Snitch? Yr just knocked out for a few minutes, broken ribs, smashed in nose, etc., if you accept. I didn't say you would.

You're paranoid, not to say weak.

Anonymous said...

"and as I said a few months back, step in a ring, beatnik boy. 200 lbs of muscle in yr little Hallmarker grill, pendejo."

CAL. PEN. CODE § 422.6 : California Code - Section 422.6

(a)No person, whether or not acting under color of law, shall by force or threat of force, willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States in whole or in part because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim listed in subdivision (a) of Section 422.55

J said...

"step in a ring" is not a threat--it's a challenge. (And my attorney would def. agree, as would any semi-reasonable DA).

Except to a spineless punk, like you Miss Anny. Alas so many literary types simply can't read.

Anonymous said...

Talk about unable to read.

J just glosses right over that "200 lbs of muscle in yr little Hallmarker grill."

Grill is the mouth.

What are you so nicely intending there, J, if not to punch someone in the mouth? In a ring, no less, where boxing occurs. That's your context.

200 pounds of muscle in the mouth.

I'm sure you can come up with an explanation that all reasonable people will agree on, though, that has you not meaning that.

I also love a guy who is anonymous--apart from an oh-so mysterious Bakersfieldian J--and who has been asked to reveal his name, and won't, due to extreme cowardice--lecturing someone on being anonymous.

Anonymous said...

What are the charges against me, J?

Repeating your own words back to you?

Maybe you should just bring charges against yourself.